|Mary Cumming, Petersburg, [Va?] to Margaret Craig, Lisburn.
|Irish Emigration Database
|Cumming (n. Craig), Mary
|middle class housewife
|Petersburg, Virginia, USA
|Lisburn, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
|T 1475/2 p.34: Copied by Permission of Miss A. McKisack, 9, Mount Pleasant, Belfast.
|The Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
|Document added by JM 01:09:1993.
|Petersburg November 25th. 1811.
My dearest Margaret,
After encountering the troubles and
dangers of a sea and land voyage, here I am at last
comfortably fixed in a very pleasant house which I may call my
own. When I look back on the last two months of my life it
appears like a dream. I am now quite tired of travelling for
some time, I think I shall be a very close housekeeper this
winter. Oh, my darling friends, how I wish you saw how
happily I am settled in this nice little place, there is every
thing in it I could possibly wish for. The house is extremely
neat and convenient, but I will try and give you some description
of it. The first floor is entirely taken up with
the office and store and room for the young men to sleep in.
Above stairs there is a very neat parlour about the size of
the sitting one of my own sweet Strawberry Hill, a very
handsome drawing-room in front with three windows, it is very
neatly furnished indeed. You go out of the parlour into a
little passage which leads to my sleeping room, which is a
very pleasant apartment. On the same floor there is a very
nice little dressing-room which I intend making a china
closet of. Next to that there is a back stairs which leads
you through a little shrubbery to the kitchen, which is at a
little distance from the house. There is another little room
with shelves all round it where the cold meat and bread are
kept. In the third story there are three excellent sleeping-
rooms all as neat as I could wish for. there are fireplaces
in all the chambers except one. From this imperfect description
you will have some idea of the house where I am to
remain for a few years. Mr. Cummings has got plate, china,
and glass, etc. in great plenty, indeed it does not look much
like a bachelor's establishment. Our family consists of Mr.
Cumming and your humble servent - "the best first" you know.
Mr. Gibbib and Mr. Orgin, who seem to be genteel, modest young
men. They are constantly in the office, except at mealtimes.
and now to give a description of a large family in the
kitchen. First there is old Nancy the cook, who is an excellent
good one, Jennie the housemaid, who seems to be a very
decent woman. She has four fine children, the eldest a little
girl about twelve years old, who is to be my little attendant,
her name is Mary. Then there is Betty, Cora,and Joseph. They can
all do something. Mary is a pretty good worker at her needle,
she is now sitting beside me making a slip for herself. I
think I shall make her very useful to me in some time. The
man's name who attends at table is Palermo. This is an account
of our family. the servants appear to be all regular and well
behaved. They were delighted to see us when we arrived. I shall
not have much housekeeping to do here if Nancy remains with
us, she is so good a cook that I have only to tell her in the
morning what I wish for dinner. Palermo gets breakfast and
tea. Nancy bakes our bread. The American flour is extremely
fine, I like the cornmeal bread very well, it is much better
than we had in Ireland at one time. If I was writing to
any but my darling sister I should be afraid of tiring them
all with these trifling matters, but I judge of you as I feel
myself, everything is interesting to me coming from you.
We have got a few peach trees in the shrubbery and in the yard,
I wish I was near my dear Rachel, I could supply her with
jessamine, we have got plenty of it here. I intend getting a
few flowers planted before the parlour windows in Spring. We
arrived here on the twenty-first of the month, last Thursday.
The first wish we felt was that our friends in Ireland knew
that we had arrived at our place of residence. When, my beloved
Margaret, shall I have the happiness of hearing from you?
I cannot tell you how very anxious I feel. If you love me
write very often, since I shall not see you all for some
time hearing from you will be the greatest comfort that I can
How often I think of you all, and how often wish I could
transport this house and its inmates to my dear Ireland.
But I feel very happy here, my dear Mr. Cumming does everything
he can to make me so, and a few years will fly swiftly
away, and then I shall leave you and dear Ireland no more. I
believe if I was there I should think my happiness too great
But I must give you some account of our journey from
New York to Petersburg. In my last elegant scrawl, which I
suppose you found some difficulty in reading, I told you how
much I admire Mrs. Dickey. The longer I was with her I
liked her better, she is as charming a woman as I ever met
with, She and Mrs. Brown were as attentive as possible to
me when I was with them. Our time was too short to allow us
to see all the beauties of New York. We went out one morning
in Mrs. Dickey's coach, but that is not a good way to see
much of a town, however we took a walk after dinner and saw
as much of the city as we could, I was very much pleased
with New York, indeed, all the American towns are very much
handsomer than I expected. Owing to the inhabitants burning
wood instead of coal, the houses and public buildings look
quite new and clean. From New York we took the steamboat to
New Brunswick, a small neat town on the Ravitor river, state
of New Jersey. We then took the stage and travelled to
Burdenton on the Delaware, sixteen miles. There we again
embarked in a second boat driven by steam, and sailed down the
noble river Delaware to the city of Philadelphia. We arrived
about two o'clock, and after dinner we took a little walk.
This town is more regularly built than any town in
America, and is thought to be the handsomest. For my part I
think as much of New York, however our time was too limited
to permit me to form a correct opinion. Philadelphia is
certainly a very elegant town, the view of the long line of
fine ships as you approach the city is very grand indeed.
Cook, the celebrated actor, was to perform the night we were
there, so we all went to the theatre, and in my life I never was
so delighted as I was with Cook's acting. He performed the
character of Sir Pertinax MacSyphocant in "The Man of the
World", and he supports the character most admirably. He
appears to me to be the most natural actor I ever saw on the
The next morning we left Philadelphia in a sail-boat, and
came farther down the Delaware to Newcastle. There we again
took the stage and crossed over to the French town which
stands at the head of Cesapeake [Chesapeake?] Bay, where we embarked in a
sail-boat that brought us to the city of Baltimore, so I
think we had a good deal of variety in our mode of travelling.
The steam-boat is a delightful way of sailing, there is not the
least motion in the boat, and you glide along almost imperceptibly.
The day we sailed down the Delaware was very fine.
and the view of the Pennsylvanian shore on one side and Jersey
on the other was beautiful beyond description.
I cannot well account for it, but I felt on my arrival
in Baltimore, as if I was going to a place that I knew before,
and I think Baltimore will be like a second home to me during
my stay in America. We went directly to Mr. Brown's father to
the gentleman that came from England with us, and they were
delighted indeed to receive their son and daughter. William
Brown had left America on account of his health three years ago,
and you may imagine the joy his poor mother felt at seeing him
strong and well and his wife and child. She had not any daughter
of her own, and little Ann will be a great pet of her grandmother.
Mr. Brown has four sons, one of them sailed for England
a short time before we arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Brown are
both first cousins of Mr. Cumming's. Mr. Brown has made a
large fortune since he came to Baltimore. they live in a fine
house and seem to enjoy it. I am very fond of all the family,
they seem to live so happily that I soon found myself as if
Doctor Brown and his charming family dined with us the first
day, I never saw a family I admired so much as I do his. Mrs.
Dicky is his eldest daughter. Jane, the second, is equally
pleasing as her sister, she is an elegant, accomplished girl as
ever I met with, she was as kind and attentive to me as if she
had known me for a length of time. She appeared to take the
greatest pleasure in showing me all that was worth seeing in
Baltimore, I went out with her in the carriage one day and had
a delightful drive, She has two sisters younger than herself,
Grace and Mary, they are very handsome. There are three sons,
I did not see any but the youngest. The eldest is married not
long since to a young lady with a fortune, he is gone to New
York to accompany his mother home. Almost all the ladies I
have met with are extremely pleasing and accomplished.
Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and their brother came to see us the
first evening, John the same good-natured pleasing man that I
remember him in Ireland, but a great deal older looking than
when he was there, he was extremely attentive to me indeed.
Mrs. Oliver appears to be a very pleasing woman, her eldest
daughter was married about three weeks ago. We all dined with
them the day before we left Baltimore. I cannot well describe
the magnificence of their house and furniture, I think it is
the finest looking house in Baltimore. You go up a flight of
beautiful white marble steps to the door, the rooms are very
splendid indeed. The drawing-room window curtains, sofa cover,
and chairs are of blue figured satin, the mirrors and lamps are
equally elegant, as for the dinner I can give you no description
of it, but that the china, plate and glass on the table was
the finest I ever saw. It would be a difficult matter to give
you a description of the manner they entertain company in this
country, such a profusion of dishes is put down, one half of
which I never saw before. I always feel glad when dinner is
over, Mr. Robert Oliver is very pleasing in his manners and
is liked by all who know him. Mr. John Oliver has some thoughts
of going to Ireland next Spring, what would you think of setting
your cap at him? The society of Baltimore is extremely agreeable.
I saw Mr. Sinclair, he is the same lively laughing man
he was when he was in Ireland, and he could hardly believe that
I was the daughter of Mr. Craig, I was quite an infant when he
went away. He breakfasted at Mr Brown's the morning we left
them, and in the midst of our hurry bidding them farewell, he
asked me if I remembered when he married my father and mother!!
He has a very good situation in the College of Baltimore, he
is beginning to look old.
We left Baltimore on the seventeenth of this month, we
took the mail and got to Georgetown that night which is 45 miles
from Baltimore and two from Washington, the Capital of the
United States. The next day we went to see the Congress Hall,
which is as fine a building as ever I saw, and the President's
house is a magnificent edifice. Washington is the most curious
city I ever saw. the plan is laid down on a very extensive
scale but I think it will require a great length of time to
fill up the ground with houses, at present it looks like a
great number of small villages, the house are all so distant
from one another. It is seated on the beautiful river Potomac.
We left Washington in the evening, crossed the celebrated
bridge over the Potomac, which is built of wood and a mile in
length. We went through Alexandria and travelled in the stage
all night, I was very much fatigued when we got to Richmond
the next evening, the American coaches are not so pleasant as
they are in Ireland. The roads went through woods all the way
from Baltimore to Petersburg. I like travelling through the
American woods very much, it often apperars as if you were
riding in a fine domain through rows of cedars, which grow in
great perfection here and look beautiful at this season, but
there is no tree that I admire so much since I came to America
as the weeping willow.
It is very common and grows to a great size. They are the most
graceful elegant trees I ever saw.
There have been several ladies called to see me, they
appear to be pleasing people, but I will tell you more of
them in my next, by that time I shall have seen more of them.
We were at church last Sunday, they have not a very good
preacher here. I do not like the Church Service, but there is
no other place I can go to. I am sorry my paper is so near done,
for I feel quite happy when I am writing to you. Oh, how I long
for a letter from you, my dearest Margaret! Tell me everything,
no matter how trifling. I hope my father is quite well this
Winter, what is my sweet little Rachel doing and my dear
James? Tell Rachel to put a postscript to your letter. I hope
my Father will sometimes write to me. How is my dear Miss
McNally and my dear little friend Margaret? How often I think
of you all, my dear dear friends. Remember me in the kindest
manner to my friends in Armagh when you write.
The weather here at present is very fine, last Sunday was as
warm as the month of May with you, the dust was thick on the
roads, to-day is not so warm, there was frost last night.
My health, my dearest Margaret, since I left England has
been far from being good, but do not be alarmed, it is not the
climate that has any effect on me, there are other reasons
which you can guess. I would have let you know sooner but I
did not wish to make you uneasy, for I know how anxious you
would feel for me. This part of my letter is only intended for
your eyes. I hope I shall soon feel better, but I have suffered
a good deal of late.
God bless you, my dear, dear Sister, and all my friends.
May you all enjoy health and happiness is the sincerest prayer
Your ever affectionate